Donald Trump is seeking $10 million in damages from a fired campaign consultant, alleging that the staffer disclosed information to media outlets in violation of a confidentiality agreement he signed, according to newly filed court documents.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is seeking the funds through arbitration from Sam Nunberg, who was fired from the campaign last summer amid clashes with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and for posting what the campaign said was racially offensive material on Facebook. Nunberg is trying to halt arbitration and has accused Trump's campaign of trying to cover up an affair between other campaign staffers.
The dispute, which was thrust into public view through media reports on Wednesday, underscored Trump's practice of binding staffers to non-discloure agreements, which is highly unusual in political campaigns. It was also a concrete example of how the many firings and resignations that have rocked Trump's campaign could become distractions in the run-up to November.
Nunberg filed his petition to stop the arbitration on Tuesday in New York's State Supreme Court in Manhattan, his lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg, said in an interview. Trump's arbitration claim, provided by Miltenberg, accuses Nunberg of "willful, malicious and continuous disclosure to various international media outlets of certain proprietary and confidential information in flagrant breach of his legal obligations."
Among other examples, the claim says Nunberg "went out of his way to make a series of derogatory remarks" about Trump after Nunberg threw his support behind Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), and cites a May 25 Politico report stating that Nunberg "helped facilitate a New York Post Page Six item" about an argument in public between Lewandowski and campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Politico attributed that information to "a person with direct knowledge of how the item made its way onto the Post's website."
Nunberg's petition, which was also shared by his lawyer, denies providing the reported information to Page Six. It accuses the Trump campaign of "a misguided attempt to cover up media coverage of an apparent affair its former campaign manager was witnessed as having with a Trump Campaign female staffer."
Hicks did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the that portion of Nunberg's petition, nor did she respond to a request for comment on the broader legal battle. Lewandowski did not respond to a request for comment on Nunberg's petition. The New York Post reported that Lewandowski and Hicks denied that they had an affair.
In a statement on the legal conflict Wednesday evening, Trump's lawyer Alan Garten accused Nunberg of making "false claims."
"As is standard practice for all major businesses, organizations and other entities dealing with proprietary information, Mr. Trump requires employees to sign and adhere to strict confidentiality agreements," he said. "When the agreements are not adhered to he will enforce them to the full extent of the law, and Mr. Trump’s litigation track record on such matters is outstanding. With regard to Mr. Nunberg, this agreement specifically calls for arbitration, and Mr. Nunberg is simply looking for free publicity using categorically false claims."
Nunberg's petition accuses Trump's campaign of "attempting to bully Mr. Nunberg into silence, although he has not disparaged Mr. Trump or any other entity referred to in the Agreement."
The Associated Press first reported on the legal fight between Trump and Nunberg on Wednesday.
Miltenberg said his client had done nothing to violate the agreement he signed and argued there was no basis for arbitration.
"Factually, we believe that everything that Sam Nunberg talked about was either otherwise well within the public domain or information he learned after he was no longer employed by the Trump campaign," he said.
Trump's campaign has dealt with significant staff turnover in recent months. The mogul fired Lewandowski last month. Less than two weeks later, a pair of staffers who worked with campaign surrogates resigned. This week, Trump brought on two new staffers -- one to work with surrogates and the other to work on rapid response.
Non-disclosure agreements are much more common in the business world than they are in the realm of campaign politics. Trump, a first-time candidate who made his career in the real estate business, has adopted many of the approaches he took in that line of work for the presidential campaign, including requiring those who work for him to sign such agreements.
Alice Crites and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.